Santos heirs v. Beramo heirs (G.R. No. 151454. August 08, 2010)


CASE DIGEST: HEIRS OF ANTONIO SANTOS AND LUISA ESGUERRA SANTOS, PETITIONERS, VS. HEIRS OF CRISPULO BERAMO, AND/OR PACIFICO BERAMO, SR., NAMELY, PACIFICO BERAMO, JR., AND ROMEO BERAMO; HEIRS OF PETRA BERAMO, NAMELY, VIVENCIO BERAMO PENALOSA AND JOSE B. BASINANG; HEIRS OF RAMON BERAMO, NAMELY, BERNABE BERAMO; HEIRS OF AGAPITO BERAMO, NAMELY, JESSIE P. BERAMO AND SAMUEL BERAMO, RESPONDENTS. [G.R. No. 151454, August 08, 2010. 641 Phil. 145]

FACTS: Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Roxas City, Branch 18, denying petitioners' motion to dismiss respondents' Amended Complaint.

Heirs of Crispulo Beramo filed an Amended Complaint for reivindicacion and/or reconveyance of property against the heirs of Spouses Borreros, etc. with the RTC.

The Amended Complaint alleged that the subject property, Lots 660, 661 and 887 of the Pilar Cadastre, consisting of around 140 hectares, located at Roxas City, Capiz, and initially covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 22668, belonged to respondents' predecessor, the late Don Juan Beramo, by virtue of open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation thereof in the concept of owner starting in 1892. Respondents succeeded to the rights, title and interest in the subject property of Don Juan Beramo and his successors-in-interest. Respondents prayed, among others, that they be declared the rightful owners of the subject parcels of land, and that the possession of Lots 661 and 887, and the northern portion of Lot 660 be ordered to be reconveyed to them.

On May 13, 1999, petitioners heirs of Antonio Santos and Luisa Esguerra Santos filed a Motion to Dismiss[3] on the ground that the Amended Complaint stated no cause of action against them. They pointed out that respondents were unable to substantiate their claim of ownership over the subject property, since they failed to present any documentary proof which established prima facie that the subject parcels of land were owned by their predecessor-in-interest. Moreover, respondents did not annex documents to the Amended Complaint evincing their right over the subject property. Petitioners also asserted that respondents failed to substantiate their claim of fraud on the part of defendants spouses Antonio and Luisa Santos; hence, respondents were unable to establish a right that was allegedly violated by the defendants Spouses Santos.

The trial court issued an Order[4] denying the Motion to Dismiss as the grounds relied upon did not appear to be indubitable.

Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, and noted that they were taken to task for allegedly failing to appear before the trial court during the hearing on their motion to dismiss. They averred that during the said hearing, they were represented by Atty. Jul Freeman Emane, collaborating counsel of the law firm handling their case. The trial court denied petitioners' motion for reconsideration.

Petitioners filed a petition for certiorari[8] with the Court of Appeals, alleging that RTC Judge Charlito F. Fantilanan committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the Orders.

Petitioners contended that the Amended Complaint showed that private respondents had no valid cause of action against them, since private respondents failed to substantiate their claim of ownership over the subject property. Assuming arguendo that a valid cause of action existed, petitioners argued that the same was, nonetheless, barred by res judicata and the Statute of Limitations. In addition, petitioners alleged that the title to the subject property was issued in favor of the Spouses Borreros as early as 1939; hence, private respondents' cause of action, if any, was barred by laches.

The Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for lack of merit.

The appellate court held that the trial court did not gravely abuse its discretion in denying the motion to dismiss, because the allegations in the Amended Complaint made out a case for reconveyance. Moreover, the complaint did not have to establish or allege facts proving the existence of a cause of action at the outset.[11] It also held that the defenses of res judicata, statute of limitations and laches may not be raised for the first time in the petition for certiorari.

Petitioners' motion for reconsideration was denied by the Court of Appeals in a Resolution[12].
ISSUE: The main issue is whether or not the Amended Complaint states a cause of action for reivindicacion and/or reconveyance of the subject property.

HELD: WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit..

Petitioners contend that the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the denial of their motion to dismiss despite the failure of the Amended Complaint to state a valid cause of action.Petitioners allege that respondents failed to present any documentary proof which established, at least prima facie, that the subject parcels of land were owned by respondents' predecessor-in-interest. Petitioners reiterate that no documents evincing their right over the subject property were appended to the Amended Complaint. Further, petitioners argue that respondents' allegation of fraud was never substantiated; hence, there was no violation of respondents' right by petitioners.

The contention lacks merit.

When the ground for dismissal is that the complaint states no cause of action under Section 1 (g), Rule 16 of the Rules of Court, such fact must be determined from the allegations of the complaint.[14] In a motion to dismiss, a defendant hypothetically admits the truth of the material allegations of the plaintiff's complaint[15] for the purpose of resolving the motion.[16] The general rule is that the allegations in a complaint are sufficient to constitute a cause of action against the defendant, if, admitting the facts alleged, the court can render a valid judgment upon the same in accordance with the prayer therein.[17] To sustain a motion to dismiss for lack of cause of action, the complaint must show that the claim for relief does not exist.[18]

The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that the Amended Complaint states a cause of action for reivindicacion and/or reconveyance. The Court of Appeals also correctly held that the general rule is that after denial of a motion to dismiss, the defendant should file an answer, go to trial, and, if the decision is adverse, reiterate the issue on appeal.

Contrary to the contention of petitioners, respondents did not have to present or append proof of their allegations in the complaint to establish a sufficient cause of action for reivindicacion and/or reconveyance in their Amended Complaint. The Court has held that in determining whether the allegations of a complaint are sufficient to support a cause of action, it must be borne in mind that the complaint does not have to establish or allege facts proving the existence of a cause of action at the outset; this will have to be done at the trial on the merits of the case.[20]

Further, petitioners contend that the Court of Appeals erred when it failed to consider and resolve the issues of res judicata and prescription raised in the petition for certiorari.

The contention is unmeritorious.

The Court of Appeals correctly held that the defenses of res judicata, statute of limitations and laches may not be raised for the first time in the special civil action for certiorari, citing Buñag v. Court of Appeals,[21] which held:
It is settled that an issue which was not raised in the trial court cannot be raised for the first time on appeal. This principle applies to special civil actions for certiorari under Rule 65. x x x

[1] Under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
[8] Under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.
[10] Drilon v. Court of Appeals, 336 Phil. 949, 962 (1997).
[11] Paranaque Kings Enterprises, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 375 Phil. 1184, 1199 (1997).
[14] Drilon v. Court of Appealssupra note 10, at 961; Sumulong v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108817, May 10, 1994, 232 SCRA 372, 378; Regalado, Remedial Law Compendium, Vol. 1, Seventh Revised Edition, 1999, p. 251, citing Mindanao Realty Corp. v. Kintanar, 6 SCRA 814, 818 (1962).
[15] Jimenez, Jr. v. Jordana, 486 Phil. 452, 465 (2004).
[16] Parañaque Kings Enterprises, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, supra note 11at 1201.
[17] Dulay v. Court of Appeals, 313 Phil. 8, 23-24 (1995).
[18] Parañaque Kings Enterprises, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, supra note 11, at 1195.
[20] Parañaque Kings Enterprises, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, supra note 11, at 1195; Alberto v. Court of Appeals, 390 Phil. 253 (2000); Jimenez, Jr. v. Jordana, supra note 15.
[21] 363 Phil. 216, 221 (1999).

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